April 2008

Conference on Unlocking the Growth Potential of Rural India, 4-5 March 2008, New Delhi, India,

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In search of inclusive and sustainable growth

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), on 4-5 March 2008, hosted the Rural Development Summit on ‘Unlocking the Growth Potential of Rural India’ in partnership with the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India and International Finance Corporation (IFC). The conference was represented by key private players, senior government officials, industry experts and rural stakeholders.  The summit that aimed at identifying the necessary logistics, mechanisms and structures required to foster rural growth and community participation, was an attempt to evaluate the amount and kind of inclusive and sustainable growth in rural India. The conference also tried to demarcate and isolate those areas (in the rural sector) that need special and immediate attention.

The inaugural note

The meeting started with the inaugural note from Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Chairman CII and Vice-chairman Bharati enterprises. Rakesh focused on the needs to boost the private sector in order to ensure agrarian reforms. He also focused on the inclusion of new and innovative technologies in agriculture. Anil Sinha, General Manager- Advisory Services, IFC (South Asia), in his welcome note, deliberated upon the need of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in ensuring equitable rural growth and sustainable development. Shubhasish Gangopadhyay, advisor to the Finance Minister, Government of India, in his keynote address spoke on the effectiveness of the agrarian sector in creating alternate avenues of employment. He affirmed, “Companies should not just focus on selling their products to rural masses but also should focus on generating income in rural India,”. Hossain Zillur Rahman, Advisor to the Caretaker Government, Commerce and Education, Government of Bangladesh, spoke on the need of effective training and operational skills to foster agricultural productivity. Rahman stressed on the entrepreneurial dimension of the small and big agricultural farmers. Subodh Kant Sahai, Honourable Minister of State for Food Processing Industries, reposing unflinching faith on the recent agricultural budget, confirmed that the government is working to make rural India more prosperous. He asked CII to collaborate with the state governments on different rural development missions. Sahai while speaking on farming initiatives said, “Contract farming is the need of the hour. It is here that the private sector can play a critical role. It is important to ensure that farmers produce and sell at their doorsteps. States need to change their mindset, bring about reforms and make farming rewarding”. As a concluding note of the welcome session, Rakesh Bharti Mittal stated: “Good politics can be good economics. The Budget’s thrust on the rural sector will make growth inclusive and sustainable. What IT has done to urban India, food processing industries can do to rural India”. He further added that states should officially lease out agricultural land to the private stakeholders to enhance rural productivity.

Rural-Industry partnership

The first parallel session aimed at locating and evaluating pragmatic business models that can be instrumentally applied to different sectors of rural India. The session  tried to understand the feasibility factors of building rural-industry partnerships. The session started with a formal note of introduction from Gokul Patnaik, Chairman, Global Agrisystem Pvt Ltd. This was followed by an ode from Ashish Karamchandani, Chief Executive Officer, Monitor Group. The first panelist in the discussion session was Subham Ray, Chief

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